Abiy Ahmed refused dialogue, opted for war, and resisted diplomatic pressure. Make no mistake. This has been his consistent position from day one. He resolved no tension peacefully with any of his major adversaries at home, including Jawar Mohammed, Eskinder Nega, Lidetu Ayalew, Yilkal Getnet, and many more who are languishing in jail on trumped-up charges. Not even with his long-time comrade Lemma Megersa. He has never tried once to resolve his internal political difference peacefully. This says it all, Abiy Ahmed has never been a man of peace. It is not in his nature. Because, as he repeatedly proclaimed publicly and stated in his book, he dreamed of being in power for the next 10 years. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, right?
I was among the hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians who have celebrated the day he was selected as a winner of Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, even if, I believe, he did not do anything notable to deserve such a prize. But we saw it as an opportunity to encourage him to make peace at home, be committed to successful political transition, and to get the attention and support from the international community to help Ethiopia overcome the eminent danger of collapse it was and still is facing. But sadly, he used that opportunity to consolidate his political power at the expense of peace and stability of the country.
I asserted, he didn’t do anything notable to deserve such a prize. It may sound an outrageous assertion but let me clarify.
The “no peace, no war” condition that lasted for two decades was basically a reflection of the deeper conflict that existed for decades between the two dominant political parties: TPLF in Tigray and PDFJ in Eritrea. While in power, TPLF made calls for peace on several occasions, but Eritrea’s PDFJ was not willing to answer to such calls. PDFJ sees TPLF as an eternal enemy who ruined the dream of EPLF (former PDFJ) and young Issaias to become a leading power in the region. For example, the former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, made several calls, but President Issaias Afewerki showed no interest. He refused to negotiate with a “puppet” (his word). When Abiy came to power and signaled his interest to make peace with Eritrea (which was decided by EPRDF centrally as part of their reform agenda before Abiy Ahmed came to power), President Issaias did not show any interest and never answered for several weeks. He was not interested until he noticed Abiy entering a new chapter in his power dynamics determined to get rid of TPLF leaders from Menelik palace. Afewerki reconsidered and answered for the call when he witnessed key leaders of TPLF left Addis Ababa for Mekelle. In a way, he was the main player for the two nations to coming to the so-called “peace”, which was later praised by many.
For those who knew the history between these two rivals, there was no genuine peace to celebrate. There was and still is a tactical alliance between two groups who have a common enemy, called TPLF. As Kjetil Tronvoll, a leading expert on Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa, once accurately described it, “the ultimate goal of Isaias Afewerki is to crush TPLF and to inflict revenge upon Tigray”, i.e. not peace. Thus, what seems progress in peace was actually and paradoxically an extended conflict which draws in several new actors into play. The two actors that were in conflict are still in conflict, but this time joined and backed by several other actors (such as, Prosperity Party and the ethnic based militias from the Amhara region) which sided with PDFJ of Eritrea.
It is the alliance of these groups that declared war today not only against TPLF, but also against the people of Tigray. What started by marginalizing and discriminating ethnic Tigrians, for example, banning from national sports, cutting budgets, preventing humanitarian aid from entering Tigray, and refusing to send medical appliances related to COVID19, is now upscaled to a full-fledged war that involves aerial bombardment including in densely populated towns. (And yes, Abiy Ahmed declared and warned about this live on national television.) As such, Abiy Ahmed, the Nobel Peace Laurate, begins to commence on a new road, from Nobel Peace Center in Oslo to ICC in The Hague, in just one year.